William H. Sherman: Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England
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“I have (somewhat perversely) avoided the words ‘marginalia’ and ‘reading’ in my title—even though this is a study of both of those things,” remarks William H. Sherman in his preface to Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Despite being the most widely accepted terminology among book historians such as himself, these words, he suggests, define the object of his investigation—reading practices in Renaissance England—too narrowly. Renaissance readers did far more with books than merely “read” them, and the notes, scribbles, and doodles they left behind in the pages of their books are not of “marginal” importance. Instead, this monograph argues that by studying marginalia we in the present can begin to understand what they in the past were actually doing with books at a critical moment in the history of humanity: the transition from manuscript to print, from antiquity to modernity.
Sherman, currently a Professor of English at the University of York, is an avid scholar of...